Lately I have been doing a lot of research on vegetarian eating. While I’m not ready to give up my occasional medium-rare steak, or my Shabbat chicken dinners, or brisket, I am ready to lean more towards a vegetarian diet and have been doing so for several months. Still I research, trying to find ideas and reasons for a permanent, all-in lifestyle change.
The main reason for a change is that vegetarian meals seem to agree with my digestive system better than meat meals. My stomach just feels much better after a stir-fry of veggies and tempeh than it does after a burger and salad. Maybe I really don’t like meat all that much and would much rather eat the varied flavors of veggies. Or maybe my stomach is telling me it’s time to make a change.
JewishVeg.org has become one of my favorite websites — it has recipes, ideas and much more. It also has a lot of salient reasons why we should all be vegetarians, or at least eat more vegetables. Still, most people are not ready to cut out all meat.
JewishVeg grew out of an organization called the Jewish Vegetarians of North America. While working for the Pittsburgh Federation, the current CEO, Jeffrey Cohan, discovered this group and its volunteers, went to New York to meet them, and ended up taking over the organization. The group, renamed JewishVeg, has recently partnered with Hillel throughout North America to get the vegetarian message to young people.
I learned a lot from this site and from a recent article about Cohan. He believes that there is a Biblical basis for vegetarianism, including the prohibition of causing animals any pain or suffering. There are other Jewish reasons behind the movement’s rabbinic statement, which has been signed by 75 members of the clergy.
If you are thinking of adding more vegetarian meals to your diet, do some research and find sites that inspire you. JewishVeg has lots of information and recipes, but other sites are also helpful. There are too many to name.
Even if you can’t give up on meat and chicken altogether, incorporating more vegetarian meals in our diets is good for our health and the health of our planet.
Beans, Tempeh and Mushrooms Casserole (Pareve)
3 to 4 cups canned white beans, drained and rinsed
8 oz. tempeh, cut into strips or 1/2-inch cubes
2 Tbsp. cornstarch or tapioca starch
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 leeks, white part only, thinly sliced
2 to 4 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 to 4 stalks of celery, sliced thinly
5 to 8 cloves of garlic, finely minced or grated
10 oz. mushrooms, sliced (a mix of white and baby bellas is good)
2 large tomatoes, diced, or a small can of diced tomatoes, drained (reserve juice)
1 fresh bay leaf
1/2 to 1 cup dry red wine
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 to 3 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
Cut the tempeh and place in a bowl. Add cornstarch and toss to coat evenly.
Heat a large frying pan and add the oil. Add the tempeh and cook, turning frequently until golden brown. Scrape into a bowl and set aside.
Add the rest of the olive oil and add the onions and leeks. Sauté until golden, about 9 to 13 minutes. Add the celery and carrots and cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until they exude their liquid. Add the wine and cook until reduced a bit, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and the beans and the bay leaf. Mix well. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. If the liquid gets too low, add some water or the juice from the canned tomatoes. Let cook about 10 to 15 minutes, to bring the flavors together. Remove the bay leaves and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with the parsley. Serves 4 to 6.
NOTE: Serve over polenta, rice or mashed potatoes for a full meal.
Simple Veggie Stir Fry with Brown or Basmati Rice (Pareve)
One of my favorite quick dinners. Yes, it looks like a lot of ingredients, but once you have the ingredients for the sauce on hand, you can use any veggies you have in the fridge. Simple to make, season and enjoy. A great comfort food to eat while watching a good movie!
1 large onion, diced
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
1 Tbsp. finely minced or grated garlic
2 to 3 carrots, peeled, sliced on an angle, sliced cut in thirds
1 green pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
Bok choy, cut into bite-sized pieces
Peapods, trimmed and cut in half
Broccoli, cut into small florets
Green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 Tbsp. cornstarch,
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. fresh garlic grated
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce (low sodium)
2 to 4 Tbsp. dark brown sugar, to taste
2 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
2 tsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. mirin rice wine
GARNISH: 2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
OPTIONAL: Sriracha sauce for heat
NOTE: All ingredients are to taste — use more of what you like and less or none of what you don’t. No mirin? No problem. Use a bit of sherry or sweet white wine. You can use any vegetables and you can add tofu or tempeh, if you like. And yes, leftover chicken and even steak are delicious in this.
Cut up the veggies in advance and keep them in separate bowls.
Heat a wok or deep skillet and add the oil. Add the onions and move constantly until translucent and lightly golden in a few places. Add the garlic and ginger and stir for 30 seconds. Add the carrots and mix for one minute. Add the pepper and celery and mix for a minute. Add the veggies one at a time and cook until they soften and are brightened in color.
Mix the sauce ingredients together in a bowl and whisk to blend. Add to the wok and mix constantly until the sauce thickens and coats the veggies. If it is too thick, add more stock or water.
Serve over brown rice or Udon noodles. Garnish with sesame seeds. Serves 4 to 8.
Super Simple Blistered Green Beans (Pareve)
My kids adored these and even ate them cold in lunch boxes for school. A simple go-to when time is tight.
2-1/2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed, washed and dried
2 Tbsp. Canola oil
2 to 4 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar, more or less to taste
Sesame seeds for garnish
Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Wash and trim the green beans and place them on paper towels to dry. Pat dry to absorb all the water.
Finely mince the garlic, or press the cloves through a garlic press into a small cup.
Place the green beans in a large bowl. Add the oil and toss to coat the beans evenly.
Add the garlic and toss to mix evenly. Add half the brown sugar and toss to coat evenly.
Pour the beans onto the prepared pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle the remaining sugar over the beans.
Place in the oven and roast until the beans begin to turn brown and blister in spots. Watch closely. Garnish with sesame seeds. Serves 8 to 10.